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Study: Candidates Should Do More Than ‘Approve This Message.’

Similar to the reaction a listener has when hearing a familiar radio personality’s voice in a commercial ad, political candidates should also lend their voice to their own campaign spots.

In a typical political ad, the only time you hear a candidate’s voice is at the very end with the terse “I approve of this message” tag. In a Westwood One-Veritonic creative test, ads that were voiced by the candidate scored higher than ads that did not include the candidate’s voice.

According to the test, the Veritonic Audio Score for candidate-voiced ads was 53, above the Veritonic political campaign average (52), and ads using a professional voiceover artist (51).

“The candidate read [ad] outperformed the Veritonic political average,” Pierre Bouvard, Cumulus Media/Westwood One Chief Insights Officer said in a video discussing the findings. The candidate read ad “also outperformed the kind of classic political ad you would hear on TV or on the radio with a professional voiceover.”

The test also found that using the candidate's voice also increased voter intention. When comparing pre- and post-intent to vote for a candidate, ads voiced by the candidate versus a professional voiceover performed better. The growth in pre- and post-intent to vote for a candidate was +6 for a candidate-voiced ad, vs. +5 for both a professional voiceover spot and the Veritonic political campaign average.

“When you compare the candidate-voiced ad versus the kind of professional typical political ad, the intention to vote was stronger for the ad that was completely voiced by the candidate,” Bouvard explained.

Candidate-voiced ads can also impact how a voter’s decisions are made by appealing to emotions. Veritonic found that candidate-voiced ads generated more positive emotions than professional voiceover ads. Respondents felt the ads made them feel excited, happy, and energetic. Conversely, respondents also felt lower levels of negative emotions like sadness or nervousness with a candidate-voiced ad.

“What they found with the ads completely voiced by the political candidate, that all of the positive emotions did better. And the negative emotions were less negative,” Bouvard said. “So, it was really a home run.”

Veritonic also tested the two political ad approaches – the standard/classic political ads and innovative station-specific ads that seek input. The test found that customized political ads with station-specific verbiage that seeks input stand out from generic, standard ads.

Swing voters were most receptive to the station-specific ads. According to Nielsen Scarborough, AM/FM radio delivers an 82% reach of swing voters. Candidates can impact that huge audience and sway potential voters using creative ads that are tailored to the station.

Similar to the candidate-voiced ads, station-specific ads saw higher rates of positive sentiment across important emotional markers: energetic (+14 difference between the station-specific ad versus the generic), relaxed (+11), unique (+11), happy (+10), likeable (+9), powerful (+6), and empowering (+6). Listeners were more likely to intend to vote for the candidate when exposed to the station-specific ads versus the generic political creative approach.

“The [test] ad did exceptionally well, when you compare it against kind of the generic political ad,” Bouvard added. “It did better overall among registered voters, better among Democrats, and more importantly, better with swing voters.”

As has been noted previously, AM/FM radio is an efficient platform to reach voters. According to Edison Research’s Q2 2022 “Share of Ear,” AM/FM radio has substantial ad-supported daily shares among registered voters (76%), Democrats (73%), Independents (75%), and Republicans (78%).

“So, two new fresh approaches for political campaigns to consider,” Bouvard remarked. “Use your candidate throughout the ad and consider this notion of customizing ads specific to the station.”

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